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Have you read this week's epistle from Jules?

Episode 151

The Agenbite of Inuit

     The peace of a Sunday morning is to be savored in the manner one most wishes to savor it. There are no pressures to do it any way but one's own. That is what Sunday morning is all about: the ultimate in self satisfaction.

     For some people, this means sleeping until the morning has become the afternoon. For others, it means tapping into the community of spirituality and attending religious services; is there any greater satisfaction for the self than opening a direct line to the Infinite? For many, church notwithstanding, it means a sticky bun or a bagel or whatever leisurely breakfast can be slowly consumed in tandem with an oversized newspaper. For some, it's diner omelets, the once-a-week gathering of the clan for any meal without the accompaniment of television. For others, it's the week in review as a procession of talking heads gabs along on the major networks as the final spins are applied to receding memories of the actual facts. For a few, it might mean waking up in yet another strange bed, bleakly trying to recall the misery that led to this particular strange bedfellow. For yet others, it might mean a hollering whoop of toddlers bouncing on the parental duvet, claiming their fair share of quality time before Monday pulls everyone back into the brow-sweat soup of weary worldliness. And for an unfortunate minority, it means only another workday: someone has to man the machinery of life that doesn't take the day off. For these few, Sunday will come on Tuesday or Wednesday, and while it may mean a day off, it will be a unique day off without the tribal meaning of Sunday qua Sunday.

     Sunday. The day off. For forensicians, who usually spend Saturday plying their oratorical trade, Sunday is definitely the day to catch up on missing sleep. Any debater from yesterday's Algren who is awake before three p.m. today has missed the point of the activity.




     In one king-sized bed, in the New York town of Rye, a mostly upper-middle-class bedroom community, a large male forearm reaches out for the side table. Fingers first touch eyeglasses, then a hardcover John Grisham novel, a folded piece of paper, a wallet, a radio--

     The radio. An index finger glides along the top, finding the on button, pushing it.

     "-- with temperatures in the mid-forties."

     Tom Starbuck's eyes are still closed. His left hand swims under the covers. His wife's side of the bed is no longer warm. He opens one eye and reads the dial of the clock. 8:36. She has probably been up for at least an hour, taking care of the kids. That is her job on a Sunday morning, making sure that her husband sleeps in on the one day that he can occasionally do so.

     "In basketball, New York topped Boston 92-88. Cleveland overcame Tampa, 102 to 97. Miami burned Atlanta, 93 to 91. Baltimore outwitted Utah, 79 to 72."

     Starbuck likes listening to sports scores, and their comforting quantification of reality.

     "Des Moines eased past Chicago, 43-42. Raleigh lit into Fargo, 14 to 2. Nebraska emasculated Denver 132 to 43. San Francisco embalmed Los Angeles, 7 to 6. El Paso slipped a mickey to Providence, 66 to 45. Reno garroted Eugene, 29 26. Waco disemboweled Orlando, 1 to nothing. Charlotte ruined Charleston in overtime, 11 to 10. Enid wallpapered Rochester, 223 to 196. Cincinnati blasted Peterborough, 29 20."

     Starbuck rolls over on his back.

     "It was the Jets over the Mets, the Giants over the Indians, the Packers over the Stuffers, the Angels over the Devils, the Jazz over the Blues, the Heat over the Cold, the Cow over the Moon."

     Something is niggling at Tom Starbuck, and he can't remember what.

     "In golf, it was Tiger over the Shark and the Golden Bear in a three-hole playoff. In synchronized swimming, it was Busby over Berkley at the Esther Williams Aquacade high atop Las Vegas's Mirage Hotel."

     He is still only half awake, the best kind of awake for a Sunday morning.

     "In college activity, Amherst excoriated Stanford, 66 to 58, Yale defenestrated Harvard,14 zip, Brandeis abused Tufts, 22 16, Williams uncorked Bates, 19 nothing, Smith overpowered Vassar, 44 33, Swarthmore swaddled Brown, 19 18, Cornell embarrassed Duke, 143 to 11, Columbia infested Georgetown, 86 to 73, Union undid Oberlin, 82 to 75, B.U. antedated B.C., 6 to 5, N.Y.U. ruined Syracuse, 4 zip, Kalamazoo upended Podunk, 9 to 6, Dartmouth sailed past Emory, 99 98, U Penn impaled Penn State in triple overtime, 2 to 1, and CCNY mugged Hofstra, 11 to 6."

     There is something niggling in Starbuck's consciousness, something about all these numbers.

     "In hockey, Toronto star Fermez LaPoitrine announced that he will become a free agent at the end of the season if the Blades don't make it to the playoffs. When it was pointed out to LaPoitrine that in hockey all teams make it to the playoffs, he sent his interviewer to the penalty box and was fined ten thousand dollars Canadian. Closer to home, Leonard 'The Meat Wagon' Koznowski startled fans by quitting his religion and dedicating himself to Satan. 'It was just time to move on,' the three hundred and fifty pound lineman explained while drawing chalk pentagrams in the Meadowlands parking lot. And on the lighter side, it was announced today that surfing, sumo wrestling and salmon spawning will no longer be allowed anywhere within the state of Missouri."

     Tom Starbuck sits up in the bed, his broad naked chest looking massive against the bright whiteness of the bedclothes. He remembers now what has been at the back of his mind. He puts on his glasses, flips on the light behind him, and reaches for the folded newspaper on the reading table.

     It is the list of yesterday's sports events, with Griot Goldbaum's hastily penciled-in picks. Starbuck scans it quickly, trying to remember some of the scores he has just heard. Griot ticked off dozens of winners, with a comparable batch of point spreads. From what Starbuck can remember, at least some of them are exactly correct.

     He throws off the covers and stands up. He is wearing only a pair of jockey shorts. His physique is impressive, the result of concentration and effort. He runs five miles at least four times a week, and spends another four hours a week in the gym on the bodybuilding equipment. He may be in his forties, and he may be lacking more than a few hairs on his head, but he will never allow anyone to think they can get the better of him. In his business, this is definitely the correct attitude.

     He throws on his robe and walks out to the living room. The kids are downstairs in the playroom, watching TV, and he can hear the sounds of the set wafting up to him. His wife is in the kitchen making breakfast, and from that direction he can hear the sounds of clinking and chopping. The New York Times is on the footrest in front of his chair, and he picks it up and thumbs through it to the sports section. He starts comparing the actual scores against Griot's predictions.

     One after the other, they are correct.

     One after the other, the point spreads are correct. Except for synchronized swimming, where instead of picking Busby over Berkley, the Eskimo's money had been on Hermes over Pan. But Starbuck isn't worried. No one ever got rich betting on synchronized swimming. As for the other sports, however…

      "Good morning, dear," his wife says, coming into the room and handing him a cup of coffee.

     "You don't know how good it is," he replies, taking the coffee and settling down in his chair for a leisurely bout with the rest of the newspaper.




     The indoor pool maintains a climate all its own, mixing dampness and warmth into a simulated subtropical rainforest where the oppressive atmosphere consists of fifty percent oxygen and fifty percent chlorine. Starbuck makes it a point always to dress in a suit when he is working, even though that means overdressing in the presence of Proscenio ("the Whale") Vitelli when the don is in his usual home office, but the worst of it, at least on entering the room, is that his glasses always fog over.

     "Sunday morning?" Don Proscenio calls out to him. Proscenio's sizable tonnage is perched on a bright green float toward the deep end.

     Starbuck is wiping the beige lenses of his glasses with a tissue; he carries a small package of tissues in his briefcase solely for this one purpose. "Sunday morning," he calls back.

     "The family is all at church."

     "I know." Starbuck puts his glasses back on, and focuses on the sight of the enormous man at the other end of the pool. He walks along the tiles. Two men, also in business suits, are sitting next to each other on cushioned recliners reading the Sunday Daily News. They pay no attention to either the consigliere or the padrone.

     Don Proscenio is wearing a Speedo bathing suit that gives him the appearance of a tightly girded sumo wrestler. Usually he keeps most of himself under water, thus hiding his mass, and Starbuck cannot imagine how he managed to get onto the float in the first place.

     Starbuck sits on the seat closest to his employer and lays his briefcase on his lap. "I want to read something to you," the lawyer says.

     "Go ahead."

     Starbuck extracts a sheet of newspaper and begins rattling off the scores of yesterday's sports events. After half a dozen, Proscenio tells him to stop.

     "I read the paper this morning, Tom. I know who won the games."

     "You had money on some of those games, didn't you?"

     Proscenio smiles. "One way or the other, I have money on every game, everywhere. All legal, I might add."

     "Of course it's legal. As an officer of the court, I couldn't have it any other way."

     "If you thought I was breaking the law, you'd turn me in?"

     "I'm also your attorney. But I couldn't support you in illicit activities."

     Proscenio reaches out with his hands and paddles closer to where Starbuck is sitting. "Tom, you've been working for the family for years now. Are you telling me that you've suddenly been struck by a bout of conscience?"

     "Not at all. But I'm just posting notice that I will not go so far as to abduct any children for you."

     "What are you talking about?"

     "Hold on. You'll see."

     "All our gambling is in Las Vegas. It's legal there."

     "To a degree."

     "To a degree. That's where you come in."

     "To a law degree, in other words."

     "To a law degree. So anyhow, what's this with the sports scores?"

     "Listen to this." Starbuck extracts another sheet of newspaper, and begins rattling off the same series of numbers. Proscenio stops him again.

     "Are you going to spend all day reading the scores to me, Tom? I get the point."

     "No you don't. The first list I read you was from today's newspaper. The second list was from yesterday's newspaper."

     "Yesterday's newspaper?"

     "It was a list of yesterday's games that were going to be played. Not a list of results; just a list of upcoming games."

     "And somebody wrote the results into them?"


     "So what's the big deal? I see people do that all the time."

     "You see people write the results in after the games. These were written in before the games."

     "Before the games?"

     "By a kid. I watched him do it. He took every single sports event yesterday and handicapped it correctly, including point spreads."

     "Including point spreads."

     "A kid, Proscenio. A teenage kid."

     "He's like a psychic or something? A fortune-teller?"

     "No. Not really. I mean, some of it must be guesswork, but I think mostly it's mathematics and intelligence. He looks at the game, factors in all the variables, and figures out the result. He's a debater; he also does it with debate rounds. Picking the winners, I mean."

     "They don't bet on debate rounds in Vegas, Tom."

     "But they do bet on basketball and hockey and horses and every other game that this kid picked the winner of yesterday."

     Don Proscenio rubs his prodigious chins. "Can he do this every time?"

     "My guess is that he can, but I don't know for sure yet."

     "Can you find out?"

     "Well, yes and no. He's one of the kids on that Buglaroni's debate team. I got all this yesterday when I was up in Boston."

     "That's right. You were up there debating. How was it?"

     Starbuck shrugs. "About what I expected. A lot of smart kids and a lot of wannabe smart kids. It's a pretty good activity, overall."

     "What about Buglaroni?"

     "He's in it, all right."

     "Is he any good?"

     Starbuck nods. "He's a goofball, but he did well enough. God knows why. He got a trophy."

     "He's a better debater than he is an actor, then?"

     "He'd have to be."

     Proscenio lays his head back and closes his eyes. "What's the name of this fortune-teller kid?"

     "Griot Goldbaum."

     "Griot Goldbaum? What the hell's that? Haitian? Jewish? Mixed Haitian-Jewish?"


     "Inuit? What's that?"

     "Eskimo. They prefer to be called Inuits."

     "So even the Eskimos are politically correct these days? Jeez."

     "He sort of looks like a chubby Fu Manchu."

     "Well, he's certainly got all the ethnic bases covered."

     "Ethnic bases no one else covers, anyhow."

     "So what do you want to do about him?"

     "I want to find out more. If he can really handicap this well consistently, the kid's a goldmine." Starbuck holds out the paper that Griot marked up. "To be honest, this is already so unbelievable that I don't know what more he could do to convince me. I'm pretty well convinced already."

     "How are you going to get to him?"

     "Through the debate team."

     "But Grandma Buglaroni told us the team was kaput."

     "So we've got to unkaput it."

     Proscenio opens his eyes. "You're sure this kid is worth it? The Innuendo, I mean."

     "Inuit. And yeah, I think he's worth it."

     "See what you can do then." The don thinks for a moment. "They haven't changed the name to Inuit Pies, have they?"

     "Not that I know of."

     "Good. This politically correct stuff is too out of hand already."

     The don closes his eyes again, and paddles himself into the middle of the pool. Starbuck stands, straightens his tie, and heads for exit.


Will Starbuck unkaput the Nighten Day team?

Will Inuit Pies be coming soon to a supermarket near you?

Does anyone actually appreciate how funny the phrase 'Agenbite of Inuit' is?

If Rich and Hillary debate again, can we have permission to jump out the window?

Given the International Date Line, does it mean that even though the Olympics happened tomorrow, we'll be watching them yesterday?

Try to put off your colonoscopy until our next episode: "What Do Android Shepherds Dream of?"

Go to the next episode due Sept 27, 2000.